A Blackpool woman is celebrating her return to employment after 22 years thanks to Remploy, the UK's leading provider of specialist employment services to people who experience complex barriers to work. Michelle Sutcliffe benefitted from Remploy's partnership with the Working for Health programme run jointly by Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Primary Care Trust.
Michelle's long-term health condition meant she was only able to undertake a string of voluntary work placement positions over the previous two decades. However, Remploy's specialist employment advisors helped Michelle amass a wide range of fresh skills during her vocational training and she was able to secure a six-month paid work experience position as a human resources administrator at Blackpool Social Services.
"The team at Remploy helped me so much and it's because of them that I'm in the position I am today," said Michelle. "I was lacking a lot of confidence when I first went there but they helped me think more positively and taught me to focus on the things I could do rather than the things I couldn't. It really boosted my self-esteem.
"I learned new interview techniques, how to tweak my CV to appeal to employers and also how to talk to adults in a more confident manner as I had previously only worked with children. The personal approach offered by Remploy was what made it such a brilliant experience and I'd recommend them to anyone."
Michelle is undertaking her six-month placement under the Working for Health programme, which is part of the Skills to Work provision funded through the Lancashire Economic Partnership. The initiative offers training and employment opportunities to individuals who have previously been claiming incapacity benefit and want to enter employment within the health and social care sector.
Development manager for Working for Health, Sheila Catterall, said: "For many reasons individuals on incapacity benefit have been a largely ignored pool of labour. However, as shown by the Working for Health programme, with the appropriate support and development there is an opportunity to improve their health and well-being and help them gain meaningful employment.
"For the Working for Health programme to work effectively we need to ensure there are strong partnerships and good communication links with our main partners and this is exactly what we have with Remploy."
Michelle's manager Carol Shearman admits she has been impressed with the progress she has made in such a short space of time, saying: "Michelle has shown wonderful enthusiasm since she started here and has wasted little time in getting heavily involved with some of the projects we run in the local community."
Remploy is the UK's leading provider of specialist employment services to people who experience complex barriers to work and last year found jobs in mainstream employment for 6,500 people with disabilities and health conditions.
Its branch and field-based network, which provides a range of services including vocational and employability training, assistance with job searching, help with writing letters, completing application forms and arranging job tasters and interviews, is central to Remploy's drive to find more than 20,000 jobs in mainstream employment for disabled people by 2012.